Excerpt from The Scent of Rain and Lightning by Nancy Pickard, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Scent of Rain and Lightning

A Novel

By Nancy Pickard

The Scent of Rain and Lightning
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  • Hardcover: May 2010,
    336 pages.
    Paperback: Feb 2011,
    352 pages.

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Chapter One

June 9, 2009

Until she was twenty-six, Jody Linder felt suspicious of happiness.

She hated that about herself, because it tended to sour some otherwise pretty damn fine moments, but this was Rose, Kansas, after all. Only the year before, a pencil tornado had dropped down and killed three people only a few miles from her hometown. A tornado, when the sun was shining! In the winter, there were ice storms. In the summer, there were grass fires. At all times, people she knew went bankrupt, lost their homes, their ranches, their jobs. Or, they died just when you least expected them to. A person could, for instance, belong to a nice family living an ordinary life in a small town in the middle of nowhere, and on some innocent Saturday night, violent men could drop in like those tornadoes and turn those nice people into the dead stars of a Truman Capote book. Such things happened. That wasn't paranoia. It was a terrible fact that Jody knew better than anybody--or at least better than anybody whose father had not been murdered when she was three years old and whose mother had not disappeared the same night.

Such things happened, and she was proof of it.

Therefore--the past having proved to her the unreliability of the present--happiness made Jody Linder anxious. Feelings of safety and security got her checking around corners, lifting lids off bins, and parting shower curtains for fear of what might be hiding there, because you just never knew. A killer could hide in the corner, bugs lurked in bins, spiders jumped out of bathtubs.

Happiness was fragile, precious, and suspect.

"No peak not followed by a fall," she believed, which explained her flutter of worry as she lay naked on top of her bed with Red Bosch in the middle of a suspiciously beautiful Kansas afternoon. The air smelled too good for such a hot day, the light penetrating her eyelet curtains looked too delicate for noon. Most foreboding of all, the sex with this man she didn't love had been too damned good to be trusted beyond the (admittedly fine) moments of her satisfaction and his. She'd kept her eyes open during the finale, which meant she'd caught Red smirking down at her, looking pleased with himself.

Don't flatter yourself, she'd nearly blurted, but then she thought, first of all, that wasn't kind and he didn't deserve it, and second of all, why shouldn't he flatter himself? Red was good at riding horses, rounding up cattle, baling hay, and this. She could hardly think of better talents in a man.

"Pretty girl," Red murmured, tracing a lazy finger down her sternum.

"Sweaty girl," Jody said, lifting his hand off and laying it back on his own damp belly.

He laughed, a self-satisfied growl, deep in his chest.

A hot, pollen-scented breeze blew through the open windows.

She smelled honeysuckle, which wasn't blooming yet, and lilac, which had already bloomed and gone. These things were impossible, they were all in her imagination, she knew, and they were just the sort of deceptions that the smallest feeling of contentment might spring on her.

She and Red lay sprawled on their backs like sated puppies who'd just had their bellies scratched for half an hour. Lying a few inches away from him, so their limbs couldn't touch and stick, Jody let out an irrepressible sigh of pleasure. Immediately, she wanted to take it back, suck the breath right back into her lungs, because God knew she couldn't let the universe be hearing any of that.

No peak not followed by a fall . . .

The sound of a vehicle turning onto her street made her turn her face toward the windows, alert to the possibility of unpleasant surprise.

"Did you hear that, Red?"

"What?"

"Shh!"

The sound of the single vehicle turned into the sound of a second truck and then another, which multiplied her alertness exponentially. Jody pressed her elbows into the bottom sheet and raised her head and shoulders to get a better listen. Traffic might not have been worth noticing in a place like Kansas City, 350 miles to the east, or in Denver, 250 miles to the west. But this was one of the quietest streets in a town so small she could hear people she knew start their cars in their garages on the other side of Main Street and know if they were late to work.

Excerpted from The Scent of Rain and Lightning by Nancy Pickard Copyright © 2010 by Nancy Pickard. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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